Here’s my column in Sunday’s Greenville News.  I hope you enjoy it!

Kitchen provide a refuge when life get’s stormy

I have long loved kitchens. The kitchen of my childhood home was cozy, with a small bar where I ate my breakfast and where my sleepy brain came around in preparation for school, to the background of the radio built into the wall. My parents passed through hurriedly, kissing and feeding me as they entered their own worlds until evening.

I well remember the layout of my grandmother’s kitchens. Both were small, with dark wood and thin tables set against a window. From those kitchens emanated wonderful smells, laughter and love. In summer they could swelter, but in winter! In winter they were havens of warmth. Their ovens heated the room, and warm buttered toast could always be obtained, accompanied by hot tea. They were places of remarkable comfort for a child. As was the school kitchen where one grandmother worked, and where I would sometimes go early in grade-school and have my breakfast, sitting beside vast ovens designed to feed hundreds of restless, growing boys and girls.

I have a kitchen of my own. Rather, my wife has a kitchen and I am a citizen of it. It is large enough for our family of two adults and four children. And it is open to the living and dining room. One can stand in the kitchen and talk to anyone on the first floor of our house. In fact, Jan or I can simultaneously cook, clean and discuss history, geometry, physics or the Bible with the kids without having to raise our voices.

The kitchen is a focal point of our home; not the only one, but a significant one. It is well-lit, but not too bright. Warm, but never hot. The dishwasher clicks away, preparing us for the next meal. And the blue lights of the refrigerator seem like robotic eyes in the dark.

Snack foods lie about the counter-tops, and a pot of tea is often heating on the cook-top. Many artifacts of our lives are permanently stationed there, from arrow-heads to infant photos, from plants to pottery painted by pre-schoolers. On the floor, our two cats eat and drink from plastic bowls. Around the top of the cabinets, Jan has strung line of white lights that are comforting as night falls.

I describe the kitchen this way because it is a refuge, a comfort. In our recent struggles as a family, the kitchen is truly a place of wonder. I find myself there often. Cooking for my family, cleaning it, these are things that give me an anchor, a purpose, a thing I can control in the midst of often uncontrollable circumstances. I am thankful for my job; going to work is a great blessing and allows me to provide for my wife and children.

But at home I can give a different kind of provision; or perhaps, the kitchen provides sanity for me. When I come down in the morning, start the fire-place and turn on the flames to cook breakfast, I engage in small, tangible activities that warm the house and strengthen the ones I love. Jan feels the same way, since she designed our house herself.

These things, these little rituals that she and I perform, make for the continuity, day after day, year after year, of a content family. Life can seem so vast, so terrifying, that meals and warmth are rather like earthly incarnations of greater delights.

This has been a cold winter. And while I love the winter, I love it most when I can feel the bite of the air and then turn back to the warmth of the house. But this winter has been a little colder because of fear and illness. However, we have been able to find comfort and joy in small things, from warm blankets and soft pillows to the blue flames over which we cook, the subdued colors where we talk, eat and laugh in our kitchen sanctuary.

It is no surprise that Jesus loved to eat. He was forever eating with friends, feeding others, and was considered by some a glutton. But I’ll bet He simply sought out kitchens, because that was where the troubled congregated.

As the very embodiment of our most desired comfort, He knew that humans in their troubles look for simple truths, and common pleasures, to get them through difficulty and pain. And where better than the place where people go for warmth, for food and for the joy of easy tasks in a not-so-easy life; like a family kitchen.

Edwin

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